The Legend Continues
The Spyro series has been around for quite awhile; its roots trace back to the days of the PlayStation. Back then, titles that had the Spyro moniker were known for their approachable puzzle-platform style of gameplay. The series has made a comeback in recent years with the Legend of Spyro sub-series, and it seems that not much has changed. While the Spyro series is still lots of fun to play, I can’t say that the series has aged well. Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon for the DS is the third iteration in this new series, and while it features plenty of fun platforming gameplay, there’s just not much here that will keep old and new fans all that interested.
The story in Dawn of the Dragon picks up where The Eternal Night left off. The Dark Master’s evil has been spreading all throughout Spyro’s world, and Spyro must join forces with his former nemesis, Cynder, in order to combat the evil. The story itself is fairly simplistic, but if you have been following the series, you will be happy to see all your favorite characters returning for the third act.
The actual gameplay here is also a lot like the previous titles and features the same puzzle-platforming style that we’ve all come to expect from the Spyro series. You can play as both Spyro and Cynder, and you will have access to their individual unique dragon powers. In Spyro’s case, these powers are elemental and do damage to foes based on certain elemental weaknesses. Cynder, by contrast, has a dark power roster that includes a deathly scream and ghostly hand powers.
You can switch between these two characters with just the touch of a button, and you can strategically alternate between them to complete certain character-specific challenges. Both characters are also able to use experience points gained after battle to level up their specific dragon abilities. Although the dual character system does inject a little bit of strategy into the game, it is a bit on the shallow side, since the two characters have such comparable powers. The character-specific challenges and obstacles are a nice touch, but there is never a real reason to choose one over the other in regular gameplay.
As far as level structure goes, there are two main types of levels: side scrolling and flying-type. The side-scrolling levels feature 2D levels where you can run and jump with Spyro and Cynder and solve level-based puzzles. The flying-type levels, by contrast, have you “steering” either Spyro or Cynder through 3D environments and attacking remote enemies through an over-the-shoulder camera and targeting system. These two different level types add some nice variation to the game and work very well together in the context of the game.
However, even though the level design does have some nice variation, the game still suffers overall from a “been there, done that” feeling. All the levels are completely linear and far too predictable. Even though the game looks like it was designed for the younger sect, it just doesn’t have enough new content to keep even the most inexperienced of players interested for long. With games like Drawn to Life and Chibi Robo: Park Patrol setting the bar high for kid-friendly DS games, Dawn of the Dragon just feels a little too bland and, as such, probably won’t be able to keep the attention of young gamers for very long.
However, despite its mediocre gameplay, there is one facet of the game that is unquestionably top-notch: the voiceover. Consistent voiceovers are definitely a rare feature in DS games, and the quality of the voice work in Dawn of the Dragon is excellent. There is quite a lot of star power voicing the different characters here, including Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci, and Gary Oldman. The actors really do a great job voicing their parts, and the audio quality is quite good, especially considering the DS’ audio capabilities.
The visuals in Dawn of the Dragon are on-par with most other DS titles, although they do fluctuate between the different level types. The 2D side-scrolling levels actually look a little bit better than the 3D flying levels and feature a bit more level detail. But on the whole, the visuals here are passable, and there are no significant problems.
The control in this title also fluctuates depending on the type of level you are playing. The side-scrolling levels feature standard D-pad and face button control, with no stylus control whatsoever. However, when you are playing through a flying-type level, you will have to use the D-pad to navigate and the stylus to attack enemies with long-range attacks. The side-scrolling controls work very well, but the stylus and D-pad combination in the flying-type levels felt a little weird and took some getting used to. But once you do get the hang of them, the controls work very well.
The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon on the DS is certainly a solid entry in the series. It has a very easy-to-learn format, is very easy to control, and features a star-studded voiceover. However, it definitely doesn’t push any boundaries, and the gameplay suffers from being very predictable. If you are a Spyro enthusiast, then Dawn of the Dragon definitely delivers all the platforming action you are used to, and you probably won’t be disappointed. But if you are looking for something more than just the usual grind, you may want to leave this Dragon on the shelf.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Graphics are passable, although the 2D levels are a little bit more visually appealing than the 3-D ones. 3.7 Control
Button-based controls work well, but levels which require you to use the stylus feel a little awkward at first. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The celebrity voiceover sounds excellent, and level music is pleasant to listen to and varies nicely. 2.1
The different levels are nicely varied, but the linear level design doesn’t allow for much exploration and is far too predictable.
3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.